Dec 4/98: Government launches res school 'healing fund'



Vancouver Sun
December 4, 1998
Janice Tibbets

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

Ottawa - Indian residential schools alumni will start receiving millions in federal money early next year for everything from sex-offender treatment to home counselling. Cheques from a $350-million "healing fund" that Ottawa announced earlier this year should start going out by March, George Erasmus, head of the foundation managing the money, said Thursday. He expects to distribute $50 million this fiscal year. Erasmus warned the money will be reserved for community projects rather than individual compensation cheques for the sexual and physical abuse many children at the schools.

Debate rages over whether the healing fund is the best way to deal with the rampant social problems on reserves that many aboriginal leaders say is the legacy of the schools. Chief Ted Quewezanc of the Keeseekoose band in Kamsack, Sask., would rather see money put into band coffers to pay for much needed housing and health care. "Healing takes place on your own," Quewezanc said in an interview." There isn't enough money out there that is going to fix anything." Chief Dennis Hunter of Saskatchewan's Gordon Reserve likes the idea of a healing fund, but he warned that $350 million is going to be spread so thin that it won't be helpful to anybody. "It should be a bigger fund," said Hunter, who lives on a reserve where dozens of residents were childhood victims of a former school director convicted of sexual abuse.

Ottawa is leaving it up to individuals and communities to make pitches for the programs they think are worthy. Erasmus acknowledged there is widespread fear that people will expect the money to cure so many social problems that it will end up doing a little for everybody but not enough for anybody. "There are major concerns out there on that basis," he said. He also noted that nobody really has a handle on the scope of the problems that can be blamed on the residential schools. "At the moment, everybody is guessing." The boarding schools were sponsored by Ottawa and run by several churches. An estimated 105,000 children passed through 80 schools before the last ones were shut down in the 1980s.

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